the italki upgrade

Upgrades, People, Upgrades | Know Your Meme

The original Fluent Forever method worked off of the (clever) insight that in a good grammar book someone much more competent than the learner has broken down all the parts of a language into easy gradated steps. It then proceeded to hook that content up to the power of Anki and SRS. So instead of doing (inefficient) exercises the learner was instead downloading the most important parts of a language, in the most most efficient order, by the most efficient means. Neat.

However, Gab realised as time past that there was a better way of doing things— using a grammar book as your core content generator (after a 500 word list) has it’s flaws and isn’t actually the most efficient way to gain real-world fluency.

The uncomfortable truth is that this remains the default assumption behind the Fluent Forever app—it uses a method which its creator has moved on from! A supposed ‘practicing with native tutors’ feature is still ‘in development’ [as of summer 2021] but won’t be any better than iTalki which exists right now.

The entire premise and genius of Gab’s method was to learn a language how your brain well.. actually learns a language. Learning vocabulary through images, including full native audio, the pronunciation trainers, even SRS itself, they are all taking advantage of how your brain actually retains language.

But the grammar-book-method turns out to be completely artificial because grammar itself is artificial. And because stripping sentences from a book and then memorising them for active recall leaves out the main thing most people learn a language to do.. speak it.

And so the updated method (rightly) has iTalki at its core, using all the best tools from the former way of doing things only now tailored to making the skill of formulating correct speech as efficient and pain free as possible.

The necessities of conversation now decide the order in which vocabulary and grammar are learnt (pronunciation remains first because it’s the basis of everything else) and since in real life there is no forced distinction between the two, there isn’t in your study either.

“The connection is glitching”, “Sorry, give me a moment”, and “Can you write that down?” are learnt before “The girl counts five red apples”, “an agricultural form which was proceeding”, or “I would like to purchase 3 poppyseed cakes”. ‘Actually’, ‘more or less’, ‘maybe’, and the colloquial word for ‘a little’ become necessities.

This is how a language is actually learnt, at random, with the needs of the moment raising stuff to memorise and your brain’s pattern recognition taking care of the rest. The mistakes and knowledge gaps in your conversation will automatically reveal the next most necessary flashcard to make, and the method will take you the whole way to B2 if you let it.

And seeing as you’re speaking the whole time—real conversation is actually your Anki content-generator—speaking is the skill you’ll be improving the most, like a muscle strengthening in the background the whole time.

By switching out a grammar textbook for iTalki lessons the method becomes a positive feedback loop, a self-contained wonderfully-efficient flywheel. A formula for learning to speak a language that’s the best thing going.

All that’s left to do is keep the flywheel spinning, let the ingenuity of the system do a lot of the heavy lifting, and book your next iTalki lesson.

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